Inspiring stories featuring entrepreneurs from all walks of life in Finland

“It’s hard to beat the buzz of creating cool content which goes viral.”, Joel Willans – Co-Founder and Creative Director at Ink Tank Media

Joel came to Finland after falling in love with a Finn, but the reason that kept him stay in the country is the weather. Joel loves the Finnish summer and how the social system works beautifully here. From his experience, he encourages Finland to open the door for immigrants more and see them as an advantage instead of a liability.

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“Never force yourself to become an entrepreneur by all means”, Juhani Polkko – Founder of San Francisco Agency

Juhani Polkko is the founder and CEO of San Francisco Oy – a marketing and communication agency specializing in PR strategy for businesses to earn media visibility globally. As a fellow active member of AaltoES community, he works with entrepreneurs and venture builders to help companies become global category winners. Juhani has 700 apps on his phone – a shred of evidence to see how much interested he is in technology. He has always been fascinating about how computers and technology impact on human’s life and behaviors. He truly lives with his passion – either in Silicon Valley or Helsinki, every work he has been doing, mostly related to technology.

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“I refused to give up even though others tell me to quit”, Josephine Atanga – CEO at JEHOM Driving School

As a foreigner, Josephine Atanga met problems that many other foreigners in Finland faced: lack of network, language barrier, limited source to finance her business. In the darkest times, she refused to give up and believed in her hardship as an opportunity to strengthen her personality and be unique. We believe her strong positive mindset is what makes Josephine stands out and achieve successes outside the norms.

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“I work harder to prove to people that they were wrong”, Miikka Sipilä – Co-founder of Stolen Shoes Entertainment

Miikka is one of the “lucky ones” who could turn their hobby into a profession. His story shows that it is definitely not easy, but possible, and in fact, well worthwhile in the long run. As an entrepreneur, building a circle of professional networks is undoubtedly important yet arduous. It’s even more challenging if you are a youngster, having almost no connection, started your career from scratch in a new city. However, with a big dream, hard work, and active participation in several events, Miikka has made his own way to get to where he wanted to be.

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“Being an entrepreneur is the fastest way to get something done”, Antti Merilehto – Founder of AI Strategy Company

“Different technologies are soon like Finnish lager beer – it all tastes the same”. Antti writes, coaches, and gives speeches about one of the hottest, most discussed topics – Artificial Intelligence. But that’s not all about him. Besides the speaking style of an author, he has the mindset of a businessman, the heart of a soldier, and the world view of a politician.

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Valeria Gasik UX Design Selma Finance Investment Helsinki Finland Ukraine

“Don’t start with registering your company” – Valeria Gasik, Co-founder of Selma Finance

Becoming co-founder in a startup in investment service, without having a background in finance. Living between the Ukrainian and Finnish cultures. Working as a freelancer for more than five years and founding a startup for sound-scaping, without consciously pursuing an entrepreneurial career. And many more interesting stories that Valeria has shared with us about her journey on finding a passion for designing and entrepreneurship.

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Tomi Kaukinen, Keynote Speaker Licence To Fail Entrepreneur Helsinki Stockholm Ironman

“Entrepreneurship is like falling in love and getting married” – Tomi Kaukinen, Founder of Licence to Fail

What we learned from Tomi is that burnout is real, it can happen to anyone. But it’s not necessarily something to be afraid of. Because the worst moments in our lives can be the ones that make us who we are. During the interview, there were not so many questions to be made because we were blown away by his compelling story about how he made it from a construction worker to a student at Sweden’s top university, what lessons he has after founding several startups, and how he overcame depression and find meaning in life again.

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“Running a business used to be the worst thing I could think of for my career.” – Sonja Mednikova, Founder of BySonjamed

As a natural-born non-procrastinator, Sonja shared with us her own simple-yet-powerful remedy for procrastination – how to stay focus and efficient in this modern world full of distraction. When being asked “What would you do when the business doesn’t go the way you wanted?”, she answered without hesitation that she and her team would change the strategy until they find something that works. Quitting on the business is not her solution. How interesting it is to see Sonja now as a dedicated entrepreneur while years ago her view on entrepreneurship is nothing but boring! 

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“My motto is that, you have to show your capability and value first by doing work for free.” – Vanitsri Tirkkonen, Founder of The Finnish Thai Association ry

Vanitsri is a type of people who can make you feel at home right from the first meeting. During the talk, we could see it’s the care for Thailand, her home country that has lightened and kept glowing the fire of patriotism in her heart. “Patriotism is a thing difficult to put into words. It is neither precisely an emotion nor an opinion, but a state of mind.” Vanitsri chose to show her love for Thailand by concrete actions. All major works she has been doing in her career share the same purpose – to promote her nation and support her fellow citizens.

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“Owning a business is more stable than being employed.” – Alexander Spelman, Founder of Spelman Media

Alexander just celebrated his 20th birthday 3 weeks ago. Coming from an international family where his father is Russian and his mother is half Estonian half Russian, he became an entrepreneur at the age of 16. But make no mistake, age doesn’t define him and age “really doesn’t matter”, as Alexander shared in his story. Our interview was supposed to be within an hour but it turned out to be a two-hours insightful talk about entrepreneurship, education and investment. We were amazed by his perspective on life and business. It was beyond our expectations that we learned so much from such a young man.

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“One of the most important activities for entrepreneurs is to go on vacation.” – Raija Lehtinen, Owner of Punainen Lanka

It was a busy day close to Midsummer. We met Raija in her colorful button and textile accessory store – Punainen Lanka (“The Red String” in English) – at Hakaniemi market hall. Customers came every now and then during our interview. There was one lady came looking for badges. Raija and she had a long conversation like two friends after a long time no see. We thought the lady must be a regular customer. But later Raija told us this was the first time they met. We were amazed by her customer service. She treats customers in a way that makes them want to buy and keep coming back.

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“Entrepreneurship is not all roses. If you want to play this game, get ready to sacrifice something.” – Jesse Khanh Tran, Co-founder of RENS

We met Jesse Khanh Tran on a sunny Wednesday in June. He arrived a bit late but with a reasonable excuse: He had been bitten by a dog just a couple of minutes ago. It was very unfortunate and we all felt sorry for him. But what surprised us was that Jesse came to the café with a big smile. And the way he told us about the accident was like a good thing had just happened. Jesse explained that he felt lucky a lot because the dog was vaccinated and it was a flesh wound. Later on in our interview, Jesse shared his opinion on “being positive” then we understood why he could focus solely on the positivity of a difficult situation.

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